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(506) 2223-1327       San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 23, 2009,  Vol. 9, No. 144       E-mail us
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The U.S. Fourth Fleet and ships from other nations train off Jacksonville, Florida, April 25.
U.S. Navy's Fourth Fleet completes its first year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Fourth Fleet has celebrated the first anniversary of its reactivation, and U.S. Navy officials are saying the year was a success.

The fleet's ships in the Pacific and Caribbean captured 126 metric tons of illegal drugs during 80 operations, and that figure does not include the many hundreds of kilos of drugs the U.S. ships drove into the shores of nations like Costa Rica. The seizures were made in conjunction with U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement teams and included stealth submersible craft.

The reactivation of the World War II designation of Fourth Fleet did not go unnoticed in Latin America. Venezuela President Hugo Chávez said that his new aircraft from Russia could easily sink the ships. Cuban officials warned that the new fleet might be the beginning of more U.S. intervention in Latin America. Both Brazil and Argentina made official requests for information.

The reactivation had not been discussed with other nations before it was announced. Approximately 40 percent of U.S. trade and 50 percent of oil imports are within this hemisphere, including more than 33 percent of U.S. energy imports, the Navy noted. The Fourth Fleet guarded Latin and South Atlantic trade routes after it was established in 1943. Enemy submarines, raiders and blockade runners were prime targets, the Navy said.

After the war, the fleet was rolled into the U.S. Second Fleet and disbanded in 1950.

Chávez made his threats a month after the fleet, based in Mayport, Florida, was reestablished and  
shortly after he received 24 Russian Sukhoi Su-30MK2 combat aircraft equipped with missiles capable of sinking ships. The aircraft were part of a $4 billion arms deal the Venezuelan leader made with the Russians. He also invited elements of the Russian northern fleet to visit his country.

In contrast, Fourth Fleet officials have not been rattling sabers. They have said they are concentrating on building partnerships through joint exercises and providing humanitarian assistance.

The USS Comfort, a medical ship, just left Nicaragua, the last of seven visits in Central America and the Caribbean.

The Navy is quick to note that medical teams aboard Comfort, in partnership with other government agencies and non-governmental organizations, have treated more than 75,000 patients and conducted more than 1,116 surgeries.

In September the Fourth Fleet's USS Kearsarge went to Haiti to support international relief operations after numerous hurricanes and tropical storms ravaged the area. During the mission, the ship's crew delivering 3.3 million pounds of food, water and other aid. Fourth Fleet helicopter crewmen helped Costa Rica during flooding in the Caribbean and after the Jan. 8 earthquake near Cinchona.

At the start of the current political crisis in Honduras, Chávez also suggested that he might invade the country in support of ousted president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales. There were rumors that Nicaraguan soldiers were infiltrating the country. The United States maintains a base in Honduras, and the Fourth Fleet has been a counterweight to any rash actions.


No Heredia train likely to be running Monday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Don't wait for the San José-Heredia train Monday morning. It will not be coming.

Instead, lawyers will be arguing most of the day over the case that a trackside land owner has placed in the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativos.

The landowner in the name of his corporation,  Comercial El Diez S.A.,  brought a case against the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles, and a judge
stopped the train. The land owner said that  cleaning and repairing the track adjacent to a steep
slope at his property line endangers the stability of the land and the well being of passers-by.

Lawyers have been involved in the case for nearly a month, counting the week-long judicial vacation that ends Monday. Meanwhile only work trains have been using the route.

The public hearing Monday will be in the Motorota building in Calle Blancos. There have been at least two engineering and soil studies presented.

Even if the court rules Monday, an appeal is likely that will continue to tie up the train.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 144

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Unnecessary 911 calls
would generate a fine

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers passed on first reading Wednesday a measure that jacks up the penalties for false calls to the 911 emergency service.

Lawmakers heard that eight out of 10 calls to the service are not emergencies and some are pranks. The bill would set up a sliding scale of penalties depending on how many unnecessary calls were attributed to one phone line. The fine would be paid by the owner of the phone line.

To advance for a presidential signature, the measure needs one more positive vote in the Asamblea Legislativa.

Legislature will not allow
donations by corporations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers have rejected a measure that would have allowed political donations by corporations. Many times the true owners of such corporations are not known.

The change to the electoral code was put forward by Maureen Ballestero Vargas of Liberación Nacional, who said the proposal would limit corporations to donating no more than 109 millions colons, about $17,000.

Cruz Roja heeds suspension
and cancels roadside aid


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cruz Roja has canceled its massive mobilization for the pilgrimage to Cartago. The emergency and rescue agency did that after the Roman Catholic Church and the Ministerio de Salud suspended the traditional pilgrimage as a way to fight the spread of swine flu.

The Cruz Roja operates a number of aid stations along the major routes walked by pilgrims. Although blisters and muscle cramps are the norm, they also are available for more serious injuries.

The agency said that those who defy the church and ministry are on their own when they walk to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles. They said those who suffer serious injuries should call the 911 emergency line.

Design exposition begins
this morning in Escazú


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 80 exhibitors in Web design, graphic arts, industrial products and use of space will be showing their skills at the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú starting today at 10 a.m. The event runs through Saturday.

The exposition is jointly sponsored by the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud and the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio. The displays will be accompanied by various seminars.

The exposition is an initiative of the culture ministry's  Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo.

Sexting is new phenomenon
that represents deeper ideas


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Amid the excitement about new mobile digital technologies and how young people in America are making use of them, there's one trend that's causing a lot of concern. It's called "sexting."

A combination of the words "sex" and "text," the term refers to the act of sending sexually explicit text messages or pictures of oneself instantly over a mobile phone. Sometimes these images wind up posted on the Internet.

Mel, 18, is a regular sexter. She says she often exchanges sexually explicit messages and pictures with her female partner as a way of maintaining intimacy.

"Sometimes sexting, sending pictures of oneself, can strengthen the relationship," she said. Mel says that sexting also helps her and her partner maintain their relationship when they are away from one another.

Whether sexting is regarded as a positive trend or a negative one depends on to whom you talk.

Dr. Susan Lipkins is a New York author and psychologist who has been in practice for 25 years. She recently conducted an online survey of 323 anonymous volunteers to explore their attitudes toward the sexting experience.
 
"Basically, sexters feel very positively towards sexting, whereas non-sexters think it's a terrible idea," she said.

According to Lipkins, almost 66 percent of the survey population is sexting, sending pictures of themselves, or somebody else that they know, that are semi-nude, or totally nude, or sexually provocative between people they know.

"People 13 to 19 are actively involved in sexting, but those 20 to 26 are even more involved," she says.

But as experts like Dr. Lipkins and sexters like Mel are aware, private images intended for a friend or partner sometimes end up on the Internet on social networking sites where anyone can view them.

Mel describes a case where a couple of male schoolmates of hers received an unsolicited sext message. What they did with that message got them into serious trouble.

"It was actually a video of this girl stripping. They did not want the message. They did not ask for the message. The girl just sent it to them."

Mel said her friends posted the video on the Facebook social networking site where many people could view it. The file was downloaded repeatedly and shared widely across the Internet.

"The school found out and almost expelled the boys because the boys were 18. The girl was a ninth grader” about 14 years old.

Some states have been prosecuting underage sexters for minor-to-minor exchanges of sexually explicit materials, a punishable offense under existing child pornography statutes. But Dr. Lipkins believes that's going too far.

"I don't think young people should be prosecuted, and I think we have to look at sexting as a symptom of something greater, and that would be the current sexual revolution," she says.

Dr. Lipkins believes society needs to accept that sexting reflects a shift in sexual values among the younger generation.

"I think the nature of relationships is changing dramatically. I think that young people believe that casual sex is not only OK but is preferred. They don't actually want to have a relationship. They want to hook up, and I believe that sexting is a reflection of their attitude towards personal space, towards ownership and towards sex."

Dr. Lipkins suggests that one way adults can help young people deal with this trend is to make sure they understand human sexuality and what a healthy sexual relationship entails. But Mel, the young sexter, says adults, too, need better information about the sexual practices their children consider normal.

"To educate them on, 'This is what's happening. This is going on, and this is what you can talk to your kids about,' and just like you talk to your kids about drugs, talk to your kids about this."

Mel adds that there's a growing awareness among young people like herself that one should use common sense when sending and receiving sext messages.

"Personally, after I receive a picture, I delete the picture, and I know that my partner does the same thing. This is what we've established to make sure that neither of our pictures end up anywhere else."

But what about the cell phone companies and Internet service providers whose video-friendly instant messaging technologies have made sexting possible in the first place? Should they share some of the responsibility for limiting the potential damage sexting messages can do? Psychologist Susan Lipkins believes they should.

"I'd like to have the cell phone companies do something. I'd like to have a pop-up screen right before you send a picture, and that pop-up screen would say, 'Are you sure you want to send this picture? Now? Later? Delete?' And that little moment of thinking, of pause, will help people to consider whether they really want to send something that might be risky."

Although the future of national anti-sexting laws is unclear, some state lawmakers are taking steps to curb the practice. Under a bill introduced in the New Jersey legislature, minors caught sending sexually explicit photographs via their cell phones would not face criminal prosecution, but they would be required to participate in an educational program about the potentially severe legal and social consequences of sexting.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 144

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National team selected for World Surfing event in Jacó
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Playa Hermosa is getting ready for the World Surfing Games that begin a week from Friday on the Central Pacific coast just south of Jacó.

Teams from an estimated 40 countries will be competing and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo estimates that the events will be available to 80 million television viewers.

Tourist operators also are counting on spectators and participants spending some time on traditional activities, like tours during their stay here. The Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce already has suggested canopy tours, parachuting, kayak, horseback riding, scuba diving, sport fishing, boat tours and cruises via the International Surfing Association Web site.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad reported Wednesday that it is installing 12 posts for lighting to illuminate evening events there as well as fiber optic lines and improvements to wireless Internet and cell phones. The company also is making available a bus to the national and international press with portable computers, it said.

At the end of the surf event, which is Aug. 8, the company said it will leave the bulk of the improvements in place for the benefit of residents. It also said that technicians will change out the florescent lighting for lighting that is not as strong in order to avoid confusing nesting turtles that frequent the beach.

The Costa Rican competitors in the games were presented Wednesday at the Best Western Irazú Hotel.  They are: Anthony Flores, Christian Santamaría, Lisbeth Vindas, Mariana Samudio, Natalie Bernot, Carlos Muñoz, Diego Naranjo, Gilberth Brown, Jair Pérez, Jason Torres, Juan Carlos Naranjo and Luis Vindas. All are well-known surfers.

The field will be narrowed to a final eight, the limit for national teams, by judges Alex Valverde, Randall Chávez and José Ureña, who is president of the Federación de Surf de Costa Rica. The official sponsors are the Billabong athletic clothing manufacturer, the tourism institute, and commercial companies, including the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Surfer finalist Brown said that for him and his partners it
Team Tico
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Team Tico from which eight competitors will be selected.

Ice bus
Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad photo
This is the phone company's 'techno bus' for reporters

is very important that all Costa Rica knows that this event is very big and something the country won during the years.

For Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the minister of tourism, this event is very important because it will attract more tourists. The Municipality of Garabito has invested in infrastructure, streets and technology.  The organizer of the games, Javier Cruz said that hotels, transportation, Cruz Roja, and the Policía de Turismo are prepared.

The tourism institute said that early August is a great time for surfing because there are constant waves.

The inauguration of the event July 31 begins with a parade of nations down the main street of Jacó. Teams will be registering during the latter part of next week, and the first day of competition is Aug. 1 with the open men and open women categories. Open longboard competition begins Aug. 5.

The chamber said that sporadic rain is expected throughout the contest week with the average temperature of the water at 75°F (24°C).


Decline in nation's monthly income seems to be leveling off
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The finance minister said that a decline of about 8.5 percent in the government's monthly income appears to be stabilizing and might actually have decreased.

The minister Guillermo Zúñiga said that some 11 billion colons has been posted July 1 when, in fact, the money should have been credited to June, giving that month 7.3 percent less income when compared to a year ago.
At the same time expenses have increased more than 22 percent, he said. He said part of the reason was incentive pay to teachers who work in less developed areas and other government programs.

The minister said that the decline in income made it necessary for lawmakers to pass legislation so that the government could seek more debt for current expenses.

His Ministerio de Hacienda handles the nation's budget.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 144

Accord of San José falls on deaf ears of Honduran leaders
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Honduran negotiations and the mediation effort by President Óscar Arias Sánchez have not led to an agreement, and Arias said the representative of opposing sides might look to some other place for a solution.

That was the outcome Wednesday when representatives of ousted president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales and the interim Honduran government met with Arias.

The Costa Rican president, who had spent 72 hours formulating a comprehensive proposal, put forth what he called the San José accord. But the interim government was less than enthusiastic.  Mauricio Villegas said the various branches of the Honduran government would study the document. That was necessary, he said, because more than the exeuctive branch is involved.

For example, Arias asked the election officials in Honduras to move the presidential elections from November to October.

The Zelaya camp was more emphatic. Rixi Moncada said the negotiations had failed due to the intrangency of the interim government.

The major point of the San José accord was the reinstatement of Zelaya as president of Honduras. This is something that interim President Roberto Micheletti said never would happen. Although Arias put this requirement in sixth place, it still was No. 1 for negotiators because all the other points hinged on that isssue.

In presenting the accords Arias said that peace can only be achieved through reconcilitation, and he proposed a government of reconcilitation. He also expressed concern 
for the citizens of Honduras who might be caught up in the dispute. Some have predicted civil war. Arias said later that perhaps the two sides can take their dispute to the Organization of American States.

The interim government has come under intense international pressure to accept a deal that would allow Zelaya to return to power. The deposed president was forced out in a coup on June 28 and is now in exile in Nicaragua.

The caretaker government claims Zelaya tried illegally to change the constitution to extend his term and has threatened to arrest him if he returns home. One point in the San José accords requires Zelaya to renouce plans for a referendum on the constitution.

No country has formally recognized the interim government, and many have been demanding that Zelaya be reinstated. The European Union has already frozen more than $90 million in economic aid to Honduras and the U.S. is threatening to do the same.

Zelaya said Tuesday that he sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama asking him to impose targeted sanctions against the individuals who ordered and carried out the coup.

But even in the face of sanctions, the interim government has remained defiant. On Tuesday, it ordered Venezuela's diplomats out of the country within 72 hours. It accused Venezuela, which supports Zelaya, of meddling in Honduran affairs and threatening to use force against Honduras.

Caracas has rejected the demand to withdraw its diplomats, saying it was issued by an illegitimate government. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is a strong ally of Mr. Zelaya.


Upscale shoe store is scene of multiple marijuana arrests
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Usually drug sales are combined with merchandise in some sleazy store on the wrong side of town or a greasy lunch place where hardly anyone goes.

But Wednesday drug officers raided an upscale athletic shoe store on San Jose's main street. It was the Penny Lane store on the pedestrian boulevard not far from the Plaza de la Cultura.  Three persons including the administrator of the store were detained, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Agents have been watching the store for two months, and one undercover officer was successful in making a purchase of marijuana, officials said. One of the suspects was found with marked bills.

Officers made the arrest in the morning and put the
handcuffed trio on the ground and on the floor of the store in clear view of other shoppers.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the administrator is suspected of keeping the marijuana in a storage area on the second floor and that the two employees would deliver the drug outside the place of business. Both employees were found with what appeared to be marijuana cigarettes, agents said.

The store handles shoes such as New Balance and Puma.
Police frequently detain store operators for selling drugs. Some lunch places actually embed crack cocaine and other drugs in the food products they sell to hide them from prying eyes. The customer knows what he or she is getting.

The unusual part about Wednesday's arrests was the quality of the store and its location on a street that is constantly patrolled by officers from three different agencies.



Excazú Christian FEllowship
Another great month



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Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 144


Casa Alfi Hotel

11-year solar cycle linked
to vast changes in Pacific


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Establishing a key link between the solar cycle and global climate, research led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, shows that maximum solar activity and its aftermath have impacts on Earth that resemble La Niña and El Niño events in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

The research may pave the way toward predictions of temperature and precipitation patterns at certain times during the approximately 11-year solar cycle.

"These results are striking in that they point to a scientifically feasible series of events that link the 11-year solar cycle with ENSO, the tropical Pacific phenomenon that so strongly influences climate variability around the world," said Jay Fein, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Atmospheric Sciences. "The next step is to confirm or dispute these intriguing model results with observational data analyses and targeted new observations."

The total energy reaching Earth from the sun varies by only 0.1 percent across the solar cycle. Scientists have sought for decades to link these ups and downs to natural weather and climate variations and distinguish their subtle effects from the larger pattern of global warming.

Building on previous work, the Atmospheric Center researchers used computer models of global climate and more than a century of ocean temperature to answer longstanding questions about the connection between solar activity and global climate.

The research, published this month in a paper in the Journal of Climate.

"We have fleshed out the effects of a new mechanism to understand what happens in the tropical Pacific when there is a maximum of solar activity," said Gerald Meehl, the paper's lead author. "When the sun's output peaks, it has far-ranging and often subtle impacts on tropical precipitation and on weather systems around much of the world."

The new paper, along with an earlier one by Meehl and colleagues, shows that as the sun reaches maximum activity, it heats cloud-free parts of the Pacific Ocean enough to increase evaporation, intensify tropical rainfall and the trade winds, and cool the eastern tropical Pacific.

The result of this chain of events is similar to a La Niña event, although the cooling of about 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit is focused further east and is only about half as strong as for a typical La Niña.

Over the following year or two, the La Niña-like pattern triggered by the solar maximum tends to evolve into an El Niño-like pattern, as slow-moving currents replace the cool water over the eastern tropical Pacific with warmer-than-usual water.

Again, the ocean response is only about half as strong as with El Niño.

True La Niña and El Niño events are associated with changes in the temperatures of surface waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean. They can affect weather patterns worldwide.

Scientists have known for years that long-term solar variations affect certain weather patterns, including droughts and regional temperatures. But establishing a physical connection between the decadal solar cycle and global climate patterns has proven elusive.

One reason is that only in recent years have computer models been able to realistically simulate the processes associated with tropical Pacific warming and cooling associated with El Niño and La Niña.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 144

Latin American news digest
Five film makers given
money for their projects

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five audiovisual producers have received funds from  Ibermedia, the Spanish organization that seeks to improve visual offerings. The amount is $215,000, according to the Centro de Cine.  The recipients are Oscar Castillo, Juan Manuel Fernández, Gabriela Hernández, Max Valverde and Ernesto Villalobos.

The awards were announced in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, earlier in the month at the Conferencia de Autoridades Audiovisuales y Cinematográficas de Iberoamérica.

The awards are annual events.


Found trunk still a mystery
as far as museum concerned


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional has not had a chance to study a trunk that was found by workmen near the rotonda de La Bandera in the Circunvalación Tuesday.

The trunk contained glass flasks and was presented as an archaeological artifact.

However, the museum said Wednesday that the trunk is in the hands of the Fuerza Pública in San Pedro and that no museum experts have had a chance to study the find.

The museum statement said that a representative would take a look at the trunk today.

The wooden trunk seems to be in remarkable condition for something buried in the early 18th century, as suggested by the type of flasks inside.

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